State Health Secretary Adele A. Wilzack dismissed one of her top deputies yesterday as the Maryland attorney general's office confirmed that it is investigating the finances of a program the deputy was running.
John Staubitz, the health department's deputy secretary for operations, has headed the state's efforts to bring the U.S. Olympic Festival to Maryland.
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. confirmed yesterday that his office is investigating allegations of financial impropriety in the way that program has been managed.
"We have received allegations and we are looking into them," Mr. Curran said, stressing that the investigation "is in the earliest stages." He declined to elaborate.
In a brief statement last night, health officials confirmed that Mr. Staubitz had been asked to tender his resignation and that Secretary Wilzack accepted it yesterday, effective immediately. A spokesman for Ms. Wilzack refused to give a reason for the firing.
But other sources said the dismissal stemmed from the attorney general's probe.
Sources also said that James Narron, the health department's director of special projects and chairman of the Maryland State Games, also was dismissed this week.
The two men could not be reached for comment.
In his job as deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Mr. Staubitz oversaw the Maryland State Games, held every year in an effort to promote physical fitness among Marylanders.
From his work on the State Games, Mr. Staubitz earlier this year began organizing Maryland's bid for the Olympic Festival, an event run by the U.S. Olympic Committee to give the country's top amateur athletes a chance to compete in Olympic sports.
The 10-day competition is held every year except those in which the full Olympic Games are staged.
The state is among five finalists seeking to host the games in 1993, 1994 or 1995. A decision is expected in February.
It was unclear whether the investigation would affect the state's bid.
Maryland officials proposed using Baltimore, Annapolis and College Park as hubs for various events, with other competitions scattered from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
State officials said long-term benefits to Maryland could be far greater than the $25 million or so the state
would realize during the festival. The area could attract up to $200 million over the years as other sports events are drawn here, officials said.
State officials previously have said that their bid required a $40,000 refundable deposit. The committee organizing each festival also must guarantee that it will give the U.S. Olympic Committe $250,000 in cash or services at the end of the competition.
The budget for past festivals has been about $10 million, state officials said last July as they discussed the state bid. If Maryland were selected as a site, the budget probably would include about $1 million from the state -- in services and cash -- about $3 million from ticket sales and $6 million in donations or sponsorships.